No trip to Hong Kong is complete without a ride up to The Peak on The Peak Tram and judging by the number of people we saw up there this year many tourists take the ride. The Tram station is just across the road from The Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens so when we passed by on our way to another park and saw the queue for those with Octopus cards (The HK Travel Card) was empty, as I suspect many visitors to The Peak do not have these, we decided on the spur of the moment to go up and take a look at the magnificent views. We have been up there before but the panoramic views, when the weather is clear enough are worth seeing time and time again.
The Peak Tram is probably the most enduring emblem of Hong Kong's unique past. It has seen war, been featured on films and television and played host to numerous dignitaries. Tens of millions of people from every corner of the globe have taken the ride, which affords a uniquely spectacular perspective of the city.
By 1883 Hong Kong's population had reached 173,475 with some families starting to the Peak their home. Although the Peak Hotel had opened in 1873 and was attracting an eager clientele, reaching the Peak was dependent on the use of the sedan chair for transport. In May of 1881, the enterprising Scotsman Alexander Findlay Smith devised a plan to speed the development of new residences in the hill districts with the introduction of a new tram system that would connect Murray Barracks to Victoria Gap. In 1882 approval was granted and the Hong Kong High Level Tramways Company was born. With the commencement of service on 30 May 1888, the Peak Tram became the first cable funicular in Asia, extending 1,350 metres and connecting five intermediate stations. The Peak Tram, which was operated by coal-fired steam boilers then, ended up serving 600 passengers on its first day and about 150,000 in its first year.
In 1926, an electrically powered system replaced the coal-fired steam boilers. However, following the Japanese occupation of Kowloon on December 11, 1941, the Peak Tram engine room was damaged in an attack. On Christmas Day in 1945, the Peak Tram service resumed but part of a Japanese shell was lodged under the main base plate of the two haulage drums. A 72-seat, lightweight all-metal tramcar was introduced in 1959 before the Peak Tram began service in its present form in 1989 following a HK$60-million overhaul to upgrade it.
From its earliest days of operation, The Peak Tram has been the focus of artists and photographers who have tried to capture its spirit while simultaneously documenting its service. From amateur shots meant to preserve a personal memory, to professionally prepared views intended for commercial sale, The Peak Tram has proven itself a particularly compelling subject. The early years of operation seem to have produced the most varied scenes, with shots taken not only at both the upper and lower stations, but also at many points along the way. These views were reproduced by a small number of Hong Kong printing companies as black and white postcards which were then hand-coloured to enhance their beauty. From all evidence they were highly popular, with elegantly handwritten notes sent around the world commenting on the remarkable views and surprisingly efficient and comfortable service.
By the end of the Second World War, photographers seemed less enthralled with the tram as subject matter. Perhaps its novelty was wearing thin in the face of new advances in transportation, or was overshadowed by Hong Kong's rapidly changing skyline. Cards from the late 1960s and 1970s focussed more on the newly built Peak Tower and the panoramic vistas that some visitors claimed yielded views as distant as Macau.
Throughout its long history, The Peak Tram has remained one of the most visited and photographed sights in Hong Kong by offering not only an enviable view, but also a quiet respite from the city below.
For a fuller account of The Peak Trams History please visit my source of information. The Peak
The best way of letting you view a large selection of photos easily is by sharing some collages.
I hope you enjoyed the photos I selected to share here, there are more if you are interested in the album The Peak Tramway at Flickr.com
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